Annually, the United States grants approximately 55,000 Diversity Visas (DV lottery), allowing immigrants to work permanently in the country under a green card. Commonly called the green card lottery, these randomly selected applicants are from “underrepresented countries” that meet two entry requirements.
Most foreigners immigrate from China, Mexico, Latin America or India. The DV lottery targets other countries in an attempt to diversity the immigrant population in the U.S. This year, the green card lottery closed on November 7, 2016.
The bad news is missing the 2016 DV deadline. The good news is that if you missed the green card lottery deadline, there are still other options you may consider when seeking permanent residency in the United States.
Changing Your Status
You may change your immigration status while living in the U.S. from a temporary to permanent through the process of qualifying under a handful of specific categories designed to grant your green card. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows an “adjustment of status” for these individuals.
If you missed the green card lottery deadline and are a foreign student studying in the United States, or if you have obtained an H1B work visa after college, you may want to change your status. The benefits of changing from an H1B visa are simple – the document only lasts six years, while a green card is permanent. Many students seek a work visa as a way to stay in the country longer then attempt to switch to a green card.
The first step is to file an immigrant petition in any number of categories including:
- Family Based
- Employment Based
- Special Classes
- Humanitarian Programs
Family Based Green Card
Marriage to a legal U.S. resident has long been observed to be one of the fastest ways to obtain a green card in the United States. Note these relationships are scrutinized to ensure the legitimacy of the marriage to help ensure the sole purpose was not to obtain a green card.
According to the U.S. Immigration website, 450,000 U.S. citizens annually marry individuals born in a foreign country and then submit their spouses for green card status.
You may quality for a green card through family connections in the United States. If you’re a relative of a U.S. citizen or even a family member of a green card holder, you may quality. There are also specially defined categories:
- If you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, you may apply for a green card. This includes spouses, unmarried children under 21 years old and the parents of U.S. citizens.
- A family member of a green card holder, including spouses and unmarried children.
- A special category qualifier, including: battered spouse or child; a K nonimmigrant; a person born to a foreign diplomat in the U.S.; a V nonimmigrant; or a widower of a U.S. citizen.
Employment Based Green Card
The green card lottery simply won’t matter if you’ve received an offer of permanent employment in the United States. Your employer will have to obtain a Permanent Labor Certification, which will allow them to hire a foreign worker for permanent labor in the U.S.
You may have the option of switching from an employment visa to a green card if you ask your employer to sponsor your EB2 or EB3 work-related green card status. You may change your status by seeking asylum if your country of origin is at civil war.
Entrepreneurs and their families may qualify if you have invested in a U.S. based business that plans to create ten permanent full-time jobs for American workers. The entrepreneur visa, also known as the Fifth Preference Green Card or EB-5, covers up to 10,000 visas annually, but you must typically invest $500,000 to $1 million in a specifically qualifying business. There are other stipulations; including the investor must be an active manager of the business.
Special Classes of Immigrants
You may apply for a green card via a special category of job status, including:
- Afghan or Iraqi translator that resides in or out of the U.S. and has been in the service of the government.
- Broadcaster working for the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Writers, reporters, translators, editors, announcers, producers, or technicians may apply.
- Employee of certain international organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT), or other recognized entities.
- Iraqi who assisted the U.S. government is a category covered under the National Defense Authorization Act. If you are an Iraqi that has been employed by the U.S. government for a year or more, you may apply.
- NATO-7 nonimmigrant including civilian NATO employees and their unmarried children can potentially apply under this section.
- Panama Canal employees, including working for the Panama Canal Company, the Canal Zone Government or the U.S. government in the Canal Zone.
- Physician qualifying for a national interest waiver falls under EB-2 status, allowing individuals with advanced degrees or with “exceptional ability” to pursue a green card. Stipulations include a requirement to work as a primary care or specialty provider in healthcare full-time in clinical practices with a minimum commitment of five years.
- Religious worker including ministers in non-profit religious denominations that have been actively working for two years prior to application.
Exploring Green Card Options
If you didn’t win the green card lottery this year, don’t be discouraged. This article has shared some of the options you have to continue your process of immigrating to the United States.
Understanding all of the loopholes that come with seeking a green card can be confusing. Having a legal advocate is an important part of the application and appeals process. Katz Law Office, Ltd. is dedicated to helping you navigate the processes that may lead to your status as a U.S. citizen. We’re here to help and are offering a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your options.
None of the advice contained in these materials serves as a substitute for individualized legal representation by a licensed attorney with experience in the practice area.